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Originally published Feb 20, 2024 on mindbodygreen.com

How does a person get to a place where they consistently embody an empowered self-concept? 

The answer is through action—living well and directing our energies toward finding the sustainable and satisfied life that is midway between excess and deficiency, between narcissism and neediness. That is why the six Sustainable Life Satisfaction techniques are all practical and active—they are not conceptual. They are things you can train yourself to do, naturally and consistently, to live a good life and appreciate and support the people and the world around you instead of relying on external influences and factors for your inner calm and joy. These six tools will liberate you from wasting your time and, ultimately, your life, trying to control circumstances that are out of your reach and allow you to focus on what you can control—your own reactions and behavior—for a life beyond happiness, a place of defiant resilience.

I’ll go into lots of detail later, but let’s start with an overview of the six fundamental behaviors embedded in Sustainable Life Satisfaction.

First of all, you avoid assumptions

By avoiding assumptions, you can learn to have agency in any situation instead of taking action based on what you imagine other people are thinking or feeling about you. Instead, your actions are based on reliable evidence. Note that this is an action technique—because your actions in any given situation will not be motivated by assumptions but by hard facts or, at the very least, really good guesses. As you avoid assumptions and engage in realistic, evidence-based thinking, you will build self-confidence and self-efficacy. 

The second step is reducing people-pleasing behaviors

What I mean by “people-pleasing behaviors” is subordinating and conforming your needs, desires, wishes, and dreams to what other people think they should be—or to what you imagine others want them to be. This technique of consciously not defaulting to putting the needs and desires of others ahead of your own enables you to live an authentic life. Authenticity means paying attention to and acting on your own wishes, desires, and dreams. It means you are freeing yourself from doing things for the purpose of securing feelings of indispensability—like doing things because you are scared people will abandon you. Not only will this lead to genuine, more meaningful connections, but it ultimately fosters self-worth and a genuine belief in your inherent lovability. 

Step three is facing your fears

The purpose of the facing-fears technique is not to stop you from feeling afraid—after all, some fear is healthy—it is to train you not to let your fears prevent you from working toward and achieving your goals. You can learn to use your fears as a positive motivation that propels you to move toward the life you want, resulting in more self-efficacy and self-respect. 

The fourth step is making decisions

Using this technique, you will liberate yourself to make choices by recognizing that almost every decision we settle on is, at best, just a well-informed guess and that there are almost no decisions that cannot be reversed. Of course, there are a few exceptions—like having a child or a financial gamble that results in an irrevocable loss—but when it comes to the day-to-day, most decisions—like which college to go to or whether to move to a new city—can be undone. The point is to take action and make a decision. When you do, you will experience more self-confidence and self-efficacy. 

With the fifth step, closing, you acknowledge that starting is easy, but finishing is hard

This truism teaches the skill of following through and completing tasks, from small ones that will make your life easier—like folding and putting away laundry or paying your bills on time—to large ones that can change your life—like starting a new business, buying a home, or ending a destructive relationship. Following through on what we start, no matter how difficult the process, will lead to self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-respect

Finally, self-reinforce by rewarding yourself for putting all the Sustainable Life Satisfaction techniques into practice

This enables you to stay on the path to believe in your inherent lovability. As you consistently provide yourself with tangible rewards for successfully executing any of the other five techniques, you will make the cognitive shift from aspiring to gain and needing praise, rewards, and reassurance from others to appreciating the profound value of giving those things to yourself. Note that the rewards you give yourself should be concrete. I often buy myself theater tickets—we’re talking orchestra seats—when I have closed a given set of tasks that I have set for myself during the week. One of my clients really likes popcorn from street vendors or movie theaters and considers it an out-of-the-ordinary delight, so when they successfully complete any of techniques one through five, they go out and buy some popcorn.

 I cannot overstate the importance of giving your brain a reward for doing the tough work of successfully enacting the other five Sustainable Life Satisfaction techniques. If you don’t, it is natural to think, This is hard stuff—why should I keep doing it? But as you reward yourself, you will start to develop, and ultimately retain, all five qualities.

 Reprinted with permission from Beyond Happiness: The 6 Secrets of Lifetime Satisfaction. Copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Guttman. Published by Post Hill Press.